Friday, March 2, 2012

Second Sister's What I Read in February

February was the month of classic mysteries for me. You'll see some authors of the golden age of mysteries, and they are as wonderful today as they were when first published.  Good thing, too, as I read some pretty poor stuff last month.

Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer Classic haunted house mystery. Superb. Simply enjoyable reading from first to last words.

Crooked House by Agatha Christie I know I've read them all, but some were read so long ago I remember nothing about them. Such was the case with Crooked House. I enjoyed it immensely. Somehow I enjoy it so much more when female authors write from a male perspective but don't try to get into his psyche. Modern authors often fail miserably, in my opinion, when writing from the view of a character opposite their own gender. Luckily, neither Christie nor Heyer write psychological thrillers, so their crackling good mysteries don't get overwhelmed by poor psychology.

The English Tea Murder by Leslie Meier Modern attempt to replicate Murder on the Orient Express and one-up it, but it fails pretty miserably. Wooden characters, boring story. I only read it for the tea in the title. The one amusement--our gang of four just wants to have a proper tea while in England, but get prevented every time. From over reactions (a 5-minute dead corpse is already accused of being unsanitary?) to ridiculous about-faces within one sentence (Lucy stops to comfort weeping Ann and then resents being "burdened with" Ann's story), to the insertion of stupid political statements ("That superpatriot persona is probably just an act. For all we know, he's a registered Democrat." Really, Democrats can't be patriotic?) to downright stupid and insensitive banter (let's hope we don't start looking like Clementine Churchill? One of the world's most powerful men loved this elegant woman who was educated at the Sorbonne, and because she doesn't look like a rail-thin 21st century model it's okay to make fun of her? In my opinion, she was far more attractive than the author. See, readers can be shallow and mean-spirited and immature, too, if we want. These are not qualities I find attractive or sympathetic in characters and actually make me want to never read about them again.) Lucy is a terrible reporter, as is clear from the books in the series, but we're told, repeatedly, she was a good reporter. Good reporters aren't mean, good reporters don't lack imagination and a sense of history--big failures in a good reporter (Lucy doesn't get why Stonehenge is a big deal; it's just a bunch of rocks). That little town she lives in has a much higher murder rate than my city of one million ("A summer rarely passed without some poor girl's body turning up swollen in a pond or..."). Remind me never to read another Lucy Stone mystery, even if I like the title.

The Rector by Mrs. Margaret Oliphant This month's historic-period short story, an obvious paean to Jane Austen. Only for diehard Austen fans, it's far too slow for the modern reader otherwise.

Monster in the Mirror by J. A. Ware This month's children's short story, this time science fiction. Enjoyable enough for this adult.

Dance of the Winnebagos by Ann Charles and C. S. Kunkle Funny mystery set in Arizona. Fans of Evanovich will enjoy this one, which is along a similar vein in style and substance. The mystery is not real mystery, as we know who did what from page 1, but the character sketches are amusing. All right, I admit I got a little tired of the randy old senior citizens; it was a gag that went on way too long. But the author's descriptions of Arizona and the desert and the people and the lifestyle were dead on. Some laugh-out-loud sections, and sexy enough for just about anyone (almost too much so for me; I prefer romance largely left to the imagination).

The Boarded-Up House by Augusta Huiell Seaman This month's children's series novel. Two young high schoolers try to solve the mystery of the long-abandoned house next door. Mildly entertaining, albeit way too tame for today's YA readers. Interesting for me as it dealt with a Civil War mystery just 50 years after the fact, when it was living memory. I also enjoy reading contemporary descriptions of life (girls were named Cynthia then, and were expected to do homework before chores, at least in this book).

A Man of Few Words by Katherine Woodbury and Eugene Woodbury My first attempt to read fan fiction (fanfic; I'm hip to the lingo, baby), in this case, Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy's perspective. Oh, what a fail! Austen fans, or at least me, are highly insulted when the characters don't speak in the voice Austen gave them. The word 'fun' never appears in Austen even if the word is old enough. Can you imagine Mr. Darcy sorting his own shirts and packing for himself? {Snort!} I'm not sure I will read any more fanfic again, of any kind, ever.

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